This week, I’ve been talking to several of my friends in the industry about the best GM candidates in the game. My goal was (and is) to put together a list that isn’t agent- and/or media-driven. In other words, I don’t want the guys that are photogenic and have good bloodlines, per se, or simply the “next up” guys from winning organizations. I’m looking for guys who are less about politics and more about grinding. At least, that’s my aim.

Here are a few thoughts gathered from talking to people this week.

  • It was really, really hard to get a consensus. I started off wanting a list of 10 candidates, but struggled to get 5-6 that were on several lists. I attribute that to the nature of the business. Most scouts tend to work in one or two organizations, so they don’t get to see many people truly work. In addition, the very nature of the business lends itself to secrecy, so it’s easy to get in a silo and stay there.
  • As a matter of fact, I had a lot of friends who were very careful about even giving their opinion on GM possibilities. No one wants their bosses to even think in terms of advancement. Next week, we’ll be hosting the ITL GM Academy with four ex-GMs, and similarly, our attendees don’t want anyone to know they are trying to grow and develop themselves, which to me is kinda crazy. The “keep your head down and grind” philosophy is alive and well.
  • As I was compiling the list, one thing came through loud and clear: when a scout would give me a name, he’d almost always talk about how much he likes the guy, how he has a great personality. We’ve all heard about how fiery and tough “Battlin” Bill Polian, one of the truly great GMs in the game, was during his career. I think today’s scouts and executives want to work with someone they can relate to, rather than be subservient to.
  • I worked hard to get perspectives from guys on the pro side, but most of them recommended guys with strong college backgrounds. It’s interesting. I guess scouts  will always see the draft as the wellspring of team-building.
  • On that topic, one scout I trust opened my eyes to something I’d seen, but never really noticed. When you sift through the names of college and pro scouting directors, it’s striking how many more pro directors are black than on the college side. It’s easy to see why — pro directors have to be a bit more persuasive, almost have a recruiting side to them. To me, this is a clear focus of attention as we try to remove obstacles in the path to the GM seat for minority candidates. I’ve seen a lot more movement toward the pro side for scouts with college backgrounds; maybe this will help break down these walls.
  • I’m sure tomorrow’s list will be controversial because we’ll have a few outside-the-box names, and won’t have some of the names you typically see on these lists. Please re-read this if you take issue with tomorrow’s newsletter: JUST BECAUSE A NAME ISN’T ON OUR LIST TOMORROW DOESN’T MEAN HE’S NOT A GREAT CANDIDATE. I’m just trying to present the people rank-and-file scouts and executives that I speak to know and trust. It’s one snapshot of many.

Anyway, we’ll have 6-7 guys whose names you’ll probably know if you read this blog regularly in tomorrow’s Friday Wrap, though they may differ greatly from the names you most often see. I hope it will be fun and provocative. Make sure you don’t miss it by registering here.